Sep 01 2011
Once you arrive in Saigon, especially in the Pham Ngu Lao area, you are bombarded with pamphlets and advertisements for various tourist activities in the city. Among the claims of seeing the country’s beauty, the best proclamation, and maybe the most outlandish, is that you “haven’t really been to Vietnam until you’ve seen a water puppet show”. This is what the folks at the Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre, the pre-eminent water puppet theatre in Ho Chi Minh City, think. So, being someone who wants to say they’ve actually been to Vietnam, I checked it out so you can know what you’re missing.
Golden Water Puppet Theatre is located on Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, just a short distance from the Reunification Palace in the Labour Cultural House. The water puppet theatre hosts a 50-minute show, featuring marionette puppets in water. Twice a day, this red velvet covered auditorium seats around 200 visitors. The singers/musicians are set off to the right side of the stage, sitting in their traditional au dais. The performance is about the ancient origins of Vietnam and its rural upbringings, with a splash of the mythical goddesses, dragons and talking fish that go along with the traditional stories. The show is entirely in Vietnamese and although the show’s pamphlet gives some information on the show, it still can be hard to follow. A programme for the show would be helpful but, unfortunately, you don’t get much assistance. The music and puppetry is still enjoyable though; just think of it as a Vietnamese puppet opera.
Since the theatre hosts two shows a day, obtaining tickets is not difficult. I showed up and bought tickets at the door just a couple of hours before the show and plenty of seats were available. I’d venture a guess that on most days you can still get tickets even a few minutes before the show, although you may not get the best seats in the house. Most shows do get pretty full so, for better seat selection, show up earlier and I’d recommend staying out of the first few rows, as this is definitely a splash zone.
Water puppets weren’t for me; I felt the show was a little boring and hard to follow. But I’m all for supporting a traditional Vietnamese art form so others can decide whether it’s good for themselves and, since it is short, even if you hated it you haven’t ruined your entire day. At around 100,000 VND, depending on the day you see it, it won’t break the bank either. That being said I would say you’re better off spending your money on this, or this, or even this. But don’t just take my word for it, check out some of the show’s highlights for yourself:
Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre
55B Nguyen Thi Minh Khai St., D.1
T: (08) 3827-2653
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